Snake bite is not uncommon in Australia, but few of us have actually been bitten.

Year 12 student, Liam Gay, vividly remembers his experience of snake bite at around six years of age.

“The creek behind our house had flooded and trapped our sheep,” he recalls. “Dad was carrying them one by one to higher ground so Mum took my sister and me to watch—fantastically interesting for a six-year-old.”

On their way back to the house, Liam complained his foot was stinging and his Mum said she’d check it when they got home.

She pulled off his boot and was horrified to see neat fang marks.

“I said something helpful like ‘I told you it was stinging’,” Liam remembers.

Luckily it was a ‘stick’ bite—a bite where no venom is injected. Other than an ambulance ride and a night in hospital, there were no serious effects.

Liam arrived at BSSC from CMC in 2021 planning to take advantage of the college’s extensive subject choice.

After years in a shirt and tie, he initially found being in casual clothes “quite shocking”. He missed his mates and there were few familiar faces in the crowd.

But, right from the start, Liam absolutely loved being able to call his teachers by their first names.

“It felt like a better connection, building mutual respect and self-respect,” he says. “Like the teachers were saying ‘talk to me like an adult’.”

These days Liam feels very much part of the place and describes BSSC as “multicultural” and “a massive eye-opener”.

“I think I was quite closed-minded in the past,” he admits. “Being here opened me up to new ideas and ideologies and I’ve become more tolerant of others and their opinions.”

Liam believes BSSC has pushed him to extend himself and take greater responsibility for his learning.

“I plan to make the most of every opportunity this year,” he says. “I would especially recommend BSSC for quiet or reserved students who want to learn to put themselves ‘out there’ or take more responsibility for their progress.”

The greatest challenge for Liam during VCE has been the lingering impact of a hamstring injury sustained at the end of 2020.

Being an experienced middle-distance runner, he would often head off into the bush whenever he needed to de-stress or take a break.

Running cleared Liam’s mind so effectively he would sometimes leave a seemingly insoluble problem at his desk and return to find it quite straightforward.

By the end of the 2020 lockdowns Liam was feeling really fit—until he was pushed to try a 100m sprint.

At the 60-metre mark he realised something was seriously wrong with one hamstring. He limped over the line and a few weeks later re-injured it.

Unable to participate in sport at all for over six months meant he was also unable to use this 100 per cent reliable de-stressing method.

“Running was my silver bullet and I’d still say it’s my best hot study tip,” Liam says. “Other than that, I’d recommend repetition and handwriting your notes.”

As this profile goes to print, Liam is cautiously rebuilding his capacity to run.

Looking to the future, he plans a career in aerospace engineering with the Australian Defence Force.

“I’d like to work on MH90 helicopters, which are usually attached to a naval vessel,” Liam says. “Engineers work on everything from design, to maintenance, to test-flights.

There’s a long history of ADF service in his family.

“I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t planning to join up—it’s almost genetic,” Liam says. “I’m also impressed by ADF contributions during national and international disasters—as well as supporting peace-keeping and humanitarian aid.

“Being able to help people is really important to me and something I’d like to be remembered for.”

Liam’s great-grandfather served in the Royal Australian Engineers during the Second World War. He died when Liam was quite young, but Liam’s dad passed on incredible stories about this man.

Serving in New Guinea during the Second World War, Liam’s great-grandfather managed to get his hands on a Japanese general’s sword. Later, lying delirious with malaria, his mates—who thought he was going to die—traded it for beer.

“I’d love to talk with him about his army experiences and also what Dad was like when he was little,” Liam says.

These family connections have also bestowed on Liam a surname that gave him some serious grief in Primary School.

“I copped a lot of bullying because my surname was ‘Gay’,” he says. “I’d try to make a joke of it and am proud I handled it as I did.

“I learnt how to get up again after being knocked down. I learnt words can only hurt me if I let them.

“Real friends don’t care about stuff like this. The ones who stay are the ones you want anyway.”

Liam is grateful for the providence he’s enjoyed in life so far—great friends, good health and parents who would do anything for him.

As he watches the flood crisis play out along the east coast of Australia, he’s also aware of how good it is to have a roof over his head.